Husayn Ibn Ali, Muharram and the Battle of Karbala


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Husayn inb Ali, the grandson of the Islamic prophet Mohammad, is believed to be the third Imam in the Shia community. He is an important figure in the Muslim religion. According to the Islamic calendar, Muharram marks the beginning of the new year. Muharram is one of the four holy months of the Islamic culture, according to the Muslim calendar which is mentioned in the Quran. Muharram is also considered to be the second most holy month after Ramzan according to Islamic culture. Warfare is forbidden during the holy or sacred months of the Islamic culture for Muslims all over the world. This year it started on 1 September and Muslims all across the world celebrated this as the start of their new year.

Husayn Ibn Ali, Muharram and the Battle of Karbala

Husayn Ibn Ali, Muharram and the Battle of Karbala

Now, What is the Significance of Muharram?

Muharram adjectively means “banned, barred, forbidden, illegal, illicit, impermissible, prohibited, unlawful, unpermitted, unauthorized”. The tenth day of Muharram(the month) is called Ashura. Ashura was the day when Husayn ibn Ali, his family, and his companions were martyred in the battle of Karbala. Husayn is the son of Ali ibn Ali Talib and Muhammad’s daughter Fatimah.After the death of Muawiya, his son Yazid asked Husayn to pledge allegiance to him but Husayn refused.

So as a result when Husayn along with his caravan was traveling to Kufa, on their way when they were in Karbala, Yazid’s army attacked them and beheaded all with taking women and children as prisoners. Even Husayn’s six-month-old son Ali al-Asghar was beheaded. This incident took place on 10 October 680.

From then on the Muslim community mourns the death of Husayn ibn Ali and all his companions, naming this whole as “Muharram”.

Shia and Sunni Community

Now the Shia and Sunni community mourns differently. The Shia Muslims observe a partial fast “faqa” to mourn the deaths and honor their sacrifices in the battle of Karbala. Shia Muslims also do not attend or celebrate any joyous events during this period at all. On Ashura, the tenth day of Muharram, some Shia Muslims participate in self-flagellation. In this self-flagellation, Shia Muslims use sharp objects such as knives and chains, which have blades attached to them and other such weapons while chanting “Ya Husayn”.

Whereas Sunni Muslims observe this tenth day of Muharram(Ashura) by keeping a peaceful fast from sunrise in the morning to sunset in the evening. Sunni Muslims also hold gatherings and attend special prayers in mosques to honor and remember the sacrifices of Husayn ibn Ali, his family, and his companions.

The days that come before Ashura which are of significance are 1,2,5,7 which observe the seizure of Grand Mosque in 1400, the entrance of Husayn ibn Ali in Karbala, the death anniversary of Baba Farid( a Punjabi Sufi saint) and the ban of water access to Husayn ibn Ali and his tribe on orders from Yazid. Then comes the day of Ashura and after Ashura, other significant days are 15,25 and 28 of Muharram.

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